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Starving Kamchatka brown bears eat two men, leave Russians in fear

July 24, 2008 |  3:06 pm

Kamchatka_brown_bear Hundreds of terrified workers at an isolated mining compound in Russia are refusing to return to work after a pack of hungry bears killed and ate two guards.

A pack of up to 30 Kamchatka brown bears has been prowling the area around two mines in Russia's Pacific Kamchatka region, searching for food. Now, a team of snipers is being dispatched to hunt the bears after receiving authorization from the government.

"These predators have to be destroyed," Village leader Viktor Leushkin told the ITAR-Tass news agency. "Once they kill a human, they will do it again and again."

But experts told the (London) Times that a "mass slaugher is unnecessary" and that they could instead focus on the few bears that killed the workers and try to frighten the rest of the group back to forest areas.

Kamchatka brown bears, similar to grizzlies, can stand 10 feet tall on their hind legs and weigh up to 1,500 pounds. Bears are revered and honored in Russian culture -- the equivalent of bald eagles in the United States -- an irony that has made the attacks even more disturbing.

The bears usually feed on salmon, but environmentalists say widespread fish poaching in the scarcely populated region, home to 16,000 bears, has forced them closer to human settlements to root through garbage and, at times, attack humans.

--Tony Barboza

Photo: Vitaly Nikolayenko/For The Times

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